Let me also apologize for how my writing changes unpredictably between past and present tense. As I sit to write each day's log, some part is reflection, some relates current events. I'll try to iron this out as I gain more experience blogging.
Wednesday, April 17, 2012
On The Highway
Fighting the headwinds down to Socorro on the Interstate was slow going, but not that bad. I stopped for a Buckhorn Burger at the tavern in San Antonio. But then on the trek east on US-380 it was truly awful and only got worse. I could see towering clouds of white sand off to the south... yes, those White Sands. I knew if I kept to my plan then at Carrizzo I would need to turn south right into the dust and wind, so I thought I'd pull off the highway to evaluate the situation.
Valley of Fires BLM Recreation Area
|The air is full of dust blown up the Tularosa Basin by strong southerly winds.|
I stopped at the Valley of Fires BLM Recreation Area just a few miles west of Carrizozo. I'd never stopped before. It is quite nice, situated on a ridge overlooking the lava flow. They have a full campground with RV hook ups; ramadas; showers; very cool, secluded tent camping area; visitor center & bookstore; and an interesting looking interpretive trail. I didn't avail myself of any of those amenities (other than the restroom) due to the ferocious winds, but it looks ripe for a return visit. High summer would not be the time to do that, however. (Spoiler: I returned later on this very trip.)
My buddy Mark had mentioned in a phone call how beautiful Lake Bonita near Ruidoso had been when he'd camped there many years ago, so I thought that would be a good alternative to fighting the wind. It is located within the Sierra Blanca mountains, so might have less wind and blowing dust than the petroglyphs which are right on the plains.
Sierra Blanca Mountains - Lincoln National Forest
Driving into the Lincoln National Forest I was quickly and harshly reminded of the large forest fire they suffered only last year. I hadn't paid it as much attention as it deserved, as I was preoccupied with the large forest fire closer to home in the Jemez Mountains. The "Little Bear" fire north of Ruidoso was enormous and although it apparently didn't burn directly at Lake Bonita, according to the map I got later at the ranger station, the subsequent floods devastated the lake and surrounding area. [update: the fire burned 44,300 acres and 254 buildings, making it the most destructive wildfire of human structures in the state's history.]
To make a long story (and many miles up and down mountain roads) short, I ended up camping along FS 127A in a dispersed camping area. It was quiet, with pines and firs, but not totally unscathed by the fires and flooding. There was a small herd of wild horses that paid no mind to me as I stopped to take a few photos. Nonetheless, the winds were strong, gusting well into the night even down in the canyon, so no exploring, just cowering in the camper. I hope they were right at the ranger station that the winds will not be as bad on Thursday when I hope to loop around and get to Three Rivers at last.
|I took this photo out my truck window. The horses could have cared less, especially the hungry little one.|
Lincoln National Forest - Forest Road 127A
|Dry camping in a dry canyon north of Ruidoso.|
|County highway on the way to Three Rivers with the Sierra Blanca in the background.|
|The petroglyph I personally call The Three Rivers with the BLM picnic/campground below.|
I could wax eloquent for pages on just how amazing and wonderful this place is. As you climb these unassuming rocky hills you begin to see the figures and symbols pecked into the rocks. The number and density is unprecedented in the southwest US. These "hills" are apparently the cores of volcanic vents. The remains of fissures can be seen in the surrounding area. And flows, such as cap the nearby Godfrey Hills.
|My site, #4 at the upper end of the campground.|
|Sunset from my campsite. There were lots of stars out later. It was so clear I could see a couple of the moons of Jupiter through my binoculars, but it was so cold I didn't stay outside for long.|
And it is indeed cold. The outside temp read 24 when I woke at six this morning. As I sit all cosy with the furnace running and with my coffee, my iPad in my lap writing this, it is all the way up to 25 degrees at 7:30 am. It's a beautiful morning outside, but I think I'll linger in the camper a while longer! Thirty minutes later it is 10 degrees warmer. I should be able get out and enjoy the scenery after breakfast.
|This is the view from my camper this beautiful New Mexico morning.|
|The trail that leads from the campground up the mountain. |
An Alligator Juniper along the trail showing the bark pattern that gives the tree its common name.
|Three wide-angle photos stitched together to create a panorama of the Nature Trail as seen from the trailhead.|
Click here to see it in a larger size.
|The Hedgehog Cacti were blooming all through the area. Sotol yucca are also prevalent.|
The last lava flows were formed only about 1500 to 2000 years ago. The lava spread southward 44 miles and covered 125 square miles. At it thickest point it is 160 feet thick. This may be the most recent lava flow in New Mexico, but it is not the largest. El Malpais National Monument near Grants in the western part of the state is larger.